Pro-Western Syrian opposition figures told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that they seek friendly relations with Israel and aim to secure US support so that rebel extremists do not take over.
The Kurdish Left Party in Syria, headed by Mahsum Faisal Baker Simo, sent a letter to President-elect Reuven Rivlin, stating that Israel “isn’t our enemy,” but that Syrian President Bashar Assad and his aides were.
“We in the Kurdish Left Party ask the government and people of Israel to stand by the Syrian people [more than before],” it stated. “We reject extremism and terrorism from any party in Syria.”
Mendi Safadi, an Israeli Druse who served as former Likud deputy minister Ayoub Kara’s chief of staff, has independently met with members of the liberal and democratic Syrian opposition who oppose the Islamists and want friendly relations with Israel. Safadi has traveled in the region, met with activists, and relayed messages from them to the Prime Minister’s Office. He was responsible for relaying the congratulation letter to Rivlin.
Safadi told the Post that in fact, these moderate opposition groups wanted to make the unprecedented offer of inviting an Israeli representative to take part in future working meetings with foreign government representatives.
Amir Abdi, the head of foreign relations for the Kurdish Party, told the Post that his group had around 400 armed men in its military wing and members outside of the country.
Abdi, who lives in northeastern Syria and traveled to Germany last week for a meeting of the party, said that it had a political plan for integrating Syrian Kurds into the rest of the country.
“We want a Syrian state that protects minority rights,” he said, adding that the Kurds demanded their rights “within the confines of the Syrian borders” and “do not accept secession.”
Asked about what kind of relationship his party envisions with Israel, Abdi responded that it “does not have a problem with Israel” and “wants to improve diplomatic relations, not only with Israel,” but with all the states in the region.
Regarding the current relationship with Israel, he said, “We share a strong relationship with the friendly State of Israel and do not forget” the aid they have given to wounded Syrians inside their country.
Earlier this month, Mohammed Adnan, the chairman of the Revolutionary Congregation for Syria’s Future, sent a letter to Rivlin as well, expressing similar sentiments.
Adnan, in an interview by phone from Turkey, told the Post that “it is our job to build a peaceful future” and “cooperate with Israel...we are ready to make peace.”
“We need Israel to approach the US” and tell them to help his movement against the “criminal” Syrian regime, which is “supporting the radicals and making the world dangerous for you and for us,” he said.
“We want help from the West, as we have a big chance to change the whole story in this area,” he continued, adding that the Islamists were only getting stronger.
Asked if he feared for his safety because of his open support for and contact with Israel, Adnan responded, “I am not afraid. I am speaking the truth.”
He explained that his movement was made up of all ethnic and religious groups in Syria.
Safadi pointed out that the Kurds were more on Israel’s side than the Arabs’.
“What we see in the media doesn’t show the reality,” he said, as “the media wants ratings” and “shows more of the extremist side of the opposition.”
Most of the rebels are seeking a closer relationship with Israel, Safadi continued. In meetings he held with Syrian opposition figures, they were all aware that he was an Israeli, and that was precisely the reason they wanted to meet him, he said.
Safadi believes that if Israel aids the true moderate opposition now, the latter will remember that after it comes into power. The most important thing is to break the link between Iran, and Hezbollah and Syria, he said.
Asked if he’d had contact with Islamists in the opposition, he said he had met with a few people from the Muslim Brotherhood who did not hold central roles.
But, he added, there was not much room for cooperation, since “their goals are different” from those of Israel and the groups with whom he has been meeting.
Unfortunately, he said, US President Barack Obama is helping the small percentage of the opposition that is from the Brotherhood, instead of people who share the values of building a democratic liberal state, not one based on Sharia law.
Commenting on Ahmad al-Jarba, the Western- backed Syrian opposition leader who is also backed by the Brotherhood, Safadi pointed out that most of his advisers were Islamists.
The West “needs to help the liberals,” he declared.
He emphasized the importance of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s gesture of visiting wounded Syrians in Israeli hospitals.
Regarding Iraq, Safadi said the situation would not calm down unless Syria was pacified and the extremists were defeated. In addition, the jihadists need to be trapped in Iraq without access to other countries in the region, he said.
“I arrive in Turkey as a tourist,” he said by way of example, explaining that in the south of the country, one can pay someone to get them across the border into Syria. As such, Safadi does not think Turkey is capable of totally stemming the tide, even if it wants to.
He mentioned that he had seen a number of Israeli Arab Muslims from the Umm el-Fahm area in the border region who were involved with al-Qaida-type groups.
Asked if he thought Israel was aware of the phenomenon, he said, “Israel is aware of everything.”
As for why the Syrian opposition was dealing with him, Safadi explained that “I deal straight with them, I don’t lie. If I promise them something, I do it, and I have the contacts in Israel.”